Charlotte Elley was just a toddler when New Zealand’s elite netballers stepped into the semi-professional world of sport, but the Trident Homes Tactix midcourter can still pay tribute to those who paved the way to what has become the ANZ Premiership.
Netball celebrates 25 years of elite leagues in New Zealand when the Premiership whistles blow next weekend, and it is not lost on Elley what has changed during those different eras and competitions.
From the lifestyle it has created for the country’s top netballers to the different demands that this generation of athletes’ face – netball has and continues to evolve with every edition of the elite league.
“It completely flipped my life,” Elley said of taking up a contract with the Tactix seven seasons ago.
Being paid to play netball was not something a young West Coaster, who had a heavy basketball background, had ever envisaged. Even when she left home to attend secondary school in Christchurch on a netball scholarship, did she imagine netball playing such a big part of her life.
“I was going down the path of wanting to study to be an anaesthetist or I’d thought about going to America and playing basketball. Now it’s surreal to look back that I moved out of Westport on a netball scholarship – netball is now my life.”
As a senior member of the Tactix, Elley can appreciate just how far the game has come during her time in the former trans-Tasman league and now the ANZ Premiership.
But she also looks back with admiration at what players before her time achieved during the days of the Coca-Cola Cup and National Bank Cup.
“It’s pretty cool to see how far netball has come. When you look at someone like Lesley (Nicol) who is our team doctor now, who had to study outside of netball hours and still went on to become a Silver Fern,” she said.
“We’re lucky they led the way for us in that respect and now we get to live netball as our day to day lives.”
Elley, who made her Tactix debut in 2016, admits she knew little about the red-and-black history growing up but since suiting up for the Mainland has become “immersed” in the culture and its proud heritage.
“When you’re playing alongside someone like Anna Thompson, who was a part of that era for such a long time, you hear the stories about what netball means to our region.”
As she prepares for the Tactix first game of their 2022 campaign against the Steel in Christchurch on 13 March, Elley reflects on what has changed.
“It has definitely got a lot more professional in the way that we have such close contact with our strength and conditioners, in touch with our physios, in touch with the coach, and our loading is also monitored. You’re constantly thinking netball in your life,” she said.
Analysis of the game had also changed significantly since the start of her elite netball career.
“When I first started, we would watch a game as a team before we came into training, but you’d never do personal analysis. Now you personally watch your game and also the opposition’s game before you come into a team training. That side of the game has definitely stepped up,” she said.
Now she is preparing to step up for a new season and hopes the Tactix can make a strong start when they host the Steel after a pre-season dotted by Covid-related disruptions.
“I know we’ve had a rocky start the last couple of seasons – game one has been a bit ugly. So, if we can get those connections firing from the get-go and come out of the blocks firing, that would be great after putting in the hard pre-season work.”
- The Trident Homes Tactix meet the Steel at Christchurch Arena on 13 March at 4.10pm.